Serbian postman Filip Filipovic found more than he bargained for when he was reassigned to cover a collection of small villages, located deep within a mountainous region to the south of the country, along the border with Kosovo.
Almost as soon as he started working there, he realised that the inhabitants of this region were living extremely tough lives. He found that many of these people lived in tiny, one room homes, with no running water or electricity. Some children faced a treacherous walk of up to 9 miles simply to get to school every day, whilst there were many elderly people who had been simply abandoned.
Faced with this dire situation, Filipovic decided he had to take action. He said “I told myself I had to do something. A few kilometres from 21st century civilisation, we have people forgotten in the 19th century.”
The first thing he did was to renovate the post office, which was housed within a rundown building that also contained the local primary school. Not only that, but he made all of these renovations with money from his own pocket, an even more astonishing feat when you factor in that Filip’s monthly wage is only £250. In addition to these much needed improvements, Filip also uses his own money to purchase sweets and chocolate for the children of these villages, who have rarely seen such luxuries before.
An average day for Filipovic sees him get up at around 6:30am. He could stay in bed for an extra hour or so, but he rises at this early hour so that he can get to his local shop to pick up things like newspapers, vegetables, milk and bread, before loading it in his van and beginning his daily rounds. He does this because the local villages that he serves have been so badly affected by the global economic crisis that almost all shops and restaurants have shut down, leaving nothing behind but crumbling, derelict buildings.
“Filip is our guardian angel,” said a 70-year-old woman who Filipovic visits on a daily basis.
By midday he is at the Dragicevic’s family home, where he picks up Milomir, aged 7, and Radomir, aged 9. From there, he drives them to school, so that they will avoid the 8 mile walk to their school. But he hasn’t finished there.
“At the Dragicevic’s, we have started to build a bathroom as they don’t have one. I hope it will be done by the end of the year,” Filipovic said.
“Without Filip, we could never afford to provide our children with everything they have. What he is doing is very rare and precious,” whispered Milena, the boys’ 28-year-old mother.
For the past two years, Filip has financed and helped renovate the only classroom in the local school, which educates six boys from the ages of 7 to 11. He also took the children on their first ever day out away from home, taking them to a town in central Serbia, before buying them bags, notebooks, pencils and computers.
This summer, he has finally finished building the first ever playground for the local school.
“When I saw the swings I told him ‘You are the best, better than Santa Claus’,” said Aleksandar, an eight-year-old boy from the school.
“Two swings and a slide. For children from the town it’s certainly no big deal, but to them it changed their whole universe,” smiled the happy postman.